Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 11
More than a year after Parliament passed the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, there is no clarity on the use of Rs 50,488 crore meant for compensatory afforestation as it continues to lie unutilised with the ad-hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA).
Advocate ADN Rao, who has been assisting the Supreme Court’s Forest Bench as an Amicus Curiae, on Monday filed an application seeking a direction to restrain ad-hoc CAMPA from transferring monies lying with it to National Fund/State Funds envisaged under the Act.
In his application, the Amicus Curiae has sought a direction to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to place before the top court the Draft Rules for implementing the provisions of the 2016 Act (as an when prepared).
He also wanted the Ministry to submit other relevant details, including the interest payable on the amounts that would be kept in the National Fund/State Funds and the prescribed minimum rate, if any.
Rao pointed out that the top court had passed certain directions on the issue 2002, 2005 and 2014 and it was not clear whether the government was moving to implement those directions or not.
In his plea, Rao said the follow-up action for effective implementation of the objects of the said Act had so far not been taken, including regarding the notification of Rules. Only thereafter it will be known if the provisions/activities and the scheme of things were in conformity with the judgments and order of the court.
“It is not clear how the utilisation of CAMPA funds will continue uninterrupted during the period when transfer of funds to Public Accounts of the respective states from the Public Account of Government of India is pending and the Rules and Procedure are under finalisation,” Rao said, adding, “It is also not clear as to how the CAMPA Act will operate in the state of J&K.”
He requested the top court to ask the ministry to inform it about utilisation of money in terms of its March 12, 2014 order and explain why CAMPA has not been made operational despite the court upholding its constitutional validity in 2005.
Because of developmental needs, forest land is diverted for non-forest purposes leading to reduction in green cover. The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 mandates afforestation of non-forest land of equal size i.e. the size of forest land diverted.
The newly-afforested land would take no less than 50 years to start delivering comparable results. This is to compensate for the loss in the interim period that the law requires that the Net Present Value (NPV) of the diverted forest to be calculated for 50 years. It has to be recovered from the user agency responsible for diverting the forests land for non-forest use.
As on September 15, 2017, Rs 50,488 crore (Rs 31,982 crore principal and Rs 18,506 crore interest) is lying with the ad-hoc CAMPA pertaining to various states/UTs. This amount is after the release of Rs 11,713 crore to various states and UTs for undertaking afforestation, conservation and protection works aws approved by Annual Plan of Operation (APO) of the respective states/UTs.
To manage the funds so received, Parliament passed the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016 which was notified in the Official Gazette on August 3, 2016. It provides for setting up of National Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of India and State Funds in each state under the public accounts of the respective states, along with planning authorities both at the Centre and states. It also provides for transfer of funds from the National to State Funds.
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